Darkest night shining into light

By Dave Richardson, Times Herald-Record, Dec 25, 2005

New York, USA -- The street outside my place is empty at midnight. The icing of fresh snow that lay there this morning is all plowed and shoved to one side, December dreams of the North Pole and Santa Claus piled into big, ugly mountains of slush, dirt and cigarette butts.

I stand freezing and smoking on my front stoop, watching for something, I-know-not-what, to come down that empty street.

It's holiday time, and the darkened storefronts are filled with bright and overpriced things that are supposed to make people happy, but don't.

How do you tell a bright-eyed little kid that all the toys in the world will eventually lose their shine, that every coin has two sides, that joy and wonder are twins of sadness and suffering?

A stray cat runs belly-dragging across the frozen asphalt, under a fence into a cold night bereft of tenderness. A car slides by, bass notes booming, two guys inside nodding along to words of greed, hate and murder. A drunk at the bar across the street screams insults at someone.

And somewhere out there in the wide world a wife stands by her husband's grave. An old man looks back with utter despair on a life of loss and emptiness. A mother sits in the ruins of a thatched hut and clutches the blanket her baby died in, wondering if the men who razed her village will come back, and how many more of her children might die this week.

Somewhere a child-soldier aims his rifle and kills someone. A freezing bum lays down his head and weeps on a steaming subway grate. A guy screams abuse at the woman he swore to cherish forever. A staring young man with a bomb on his back waits at a bus stop. A great love dies.

My dearest friend asked me yesterday what I want for Christmas. I told her I'm a Buddhist.

But since she's asking, how about a day, just one lousy day, where no one on this planet has to have his heart ripped out. Where the meat grinder that is life takes a pause to let us breathe.

A day where the grieving widow can look up at the sunset and feel peace, even for a few minutes. Where a broken man can find the heart to keep on living. Where the raiders pass by that village. Where the suicide bomber's backpack fizzles. Where the guy hurls crazy love poems at her instead of hate. Where the bum finds a warm bed and the stray cat finds a home.

Where impossible love finds possibilities and ground to grow.

Somewhere out there a baby is being born, gasping her first breath, opening her eyes for the first time as you read this.

May she grow up in a world worthy of her wonder.